Only at Wabash

Jim Amidon, April 25 — The curtain had fallen on the Wabash College Theater production of The Braggart Soldier on Friday night. The large crowd in Ball Theater, which had spent the better part of two hours laughing at the slapstick performances, clapped in appreciation as the cast emerged, one by one, for the curtain call.

Big applause for the lead players — guys like Matt McKay and Denis Farr and Dickie Winters — and then came Janathan Grandoit, a minor, but very funny character. Grandoit played a servant forced to dress as a woman… and took his curtain call wearing a bridal gown.

With the crowd still cheering, Grandoit invited his longtime girlfriend, Delphia Flenar, a Butler University student, to join him on stage. And there, in a white wedding gown, he got down on his knee and asked her to marry him. The cast surrounded the couple, throwing confetti and the crowd roared with delight. Every recent bride in the house was crying, even some women married 20 years.

Grandoit will go to work this summer for AFLAC in Indianapolis, while his bride-to-be finishes up at Butler. They’ll be married after her graduation.

Imagine that a student with a only bit part — a servant no less — could steal the show at a Friday night performance. And do so at the curtain call when the play had ended. Congratulations to Janathan and Delphia.

Only at Wabash.

The Wonder of the Arts

Jim Amidon — Fifteen or 20 years ago, Wabash was in need of pretty substantial upgrades in its science, athletics, modern languages, library, and arts facilities. When it came time to begin raising funds and starting construction, College Trustees and Administrators chose to start with the Fine Arts Center, a decision which made a lot of people scratch their heads.

But it was the right decision. A good liberal arts college — no, a great liberal arts college — must be committed to the arts. Wabash demonstrated this with the addition of the Randolph Deer Art Wing and the music wing, including Salter Hall. Add a third full-time faculty member in each of the three fine arts departments has also demonstrated the College’s commitment.

A little over a decade has passed and the results are marvelous. The quality of our student musicians, thespians, and visual artists is as good now — consistently — as it ever has been. Anyone who heard George Colakovic’s recital in Salter Hall or caught this year’s Glee Club in concert realizes there has been a tremendous improvement in talent (not to mention the acoustics of that fantastic facility).

I attended the Senior Art Majors opening reception Monday night. We’ve probably had more talented individual artists in recent years, but as a group these four men hold up as well as any senior class in memory. And they are distinctive. I’ve watched Tim Parker throw running backs around like rag dolls on the football field for three years; it is nice to see what a delicate hand he has for sculpture. I think so differently about Adam Miller’s vibrant paintings after learning that he is color blind. Bill Whited’s installation — especially the "design them yourself" crawling creatures — is unique and thought-provoking. And David Murphy’s pottery is not only beautifully created, but artistically significant.

That same night I caught a dress rehearsal of Jim Fisher’s production of The Braggart Soldier. Five minutes into the show and I was as entertained as I have been in years in Ball Theater. The casting is perfect and includes a range of usual faces (Matt McKay, Denis Farr, and Sterling Carter), but also features some new faces (Braden Pemberton, Joe Martin, and Ali Ahmed). Farr and Dickie Winters even designed the costumes for the show, which you’ll appreciate even more after seeing the show.

Indeed, there was wisdom in that 1980s decision to put the arts first when it came time for funding and building. Now the community must put the arts at the top of the list again — at the busiest time of the year — to make time to celebrate the talents of our young men.

Hardest Time of the Year

Jim Amidon — I was rushing across the Wabash campus last Thursday — running behind, as usual — when a student approached me.

“Do you work here?” he asked.

“Yes,” I said.

“For very long?” he inquired

“Yes, almost 19 years,” I told him.

“Were you a student before that?” he wondered.

I told him I was and at this point in the conversation with my wristwatch ticking away, I needed to speed things along. I asked him how I could help.

He shrugged his shoulders, looked around at the blue skies and budding crabapple trees, and finally had the courage to ask his primary question:

“Is this really the hardest time of the year? I mean, I’m just a freshman, but…”

I cut him off to put him out of his misery. “Yes,” I said, “when the weather warms up and the grass turns green, all you want to do is be outside goofing off with your friends. But the last two weeks will make or break your semester.”

He wanted to know how to get through it — how to focus on finishing papers and preparing for exams, while not wanting to spend a single minute in class or his study room.

My advice for this frustrated, but honest young man was: head for the library basement, find a table buried in the stacks. There, I told him, he couldn’t tell if it was day or night, sunny or raining. There, I suggested, he could find his focus.

We chatted a few minutes longer and I ran to my next stop. I saw the young man the next day and asked him how he was doing.

“I got three papers finished yesterday. Thanks for the advice!”

I only relate this story in such detail because for those of us who have been around Wabash for a long time and see mid-April as the beginning of the end of a long year, our students face a brutal challenge.

They must find focus and do so when — for the first time in six months — the weather is decent enough to play golf, throw a Frisbee, take a hike at Turkey Run.

Guys who really want to succeed and end the year with a bang must force themselves to resist nature’s urges to come outside; they find a study table in the library or their study room and hit the books. Those who don’t find that focus face the very real possibility that the previous 16 weeks of work will have been for naught.

What I told the young man —†in addition to my secret study spot in the basement of the library — was that he needs to take a regular look at his wall calendar. By doing so, he’ll realize there are only two more weeks of classes; two more weeks of hard work and sacrifice.

He understood what I meant and said, “You know, I have a chance to get a 3.3 GPA if I don’t mess it up.”

The young man reflected on all the hard work he had done to this point and made the tough decision (remember how nice it was last Thursday?) to stay inside to finish his papers.

That’s the type of discipline most freshmen don’t possess. They learn it over time at Wabash and if they don’t they typically won’t graduate. It often boils down to something that simple.

That discipline and focus is also, I think, the key to the success of our alumni. You can’t get very far in this world if you lack the discipline and focus to complete projects on time; to sacrifice the desire for instant gratification for long-term success.

I’m glad I ran into that young man and I’m happy we spent 10 minutes talking. But I’m not sure who got the greater lesson: the young man seeking advice or the guy who gave it. The encounter served as a helpful reminder to me, too.

Community Takes Advantage of Wellness Fair

Howard W. Hewitt – Wabash College’s Wellness Fair brought students, faculty and staff to Chadwick Court April 12.

The annual event offers plenty of information along with blood pressure checks, cholesterol screenings, and even a free massage.

It’s events like the wellness fair are a real value-added benefit to the College community. The early morning crowd was large and steady, the presenters said. The booths opened at 6 a.m. and closed at 1 p.m.

The participating services included: Dr. Louis Metzman, Kroger Pharmacy, American Red Cross, Athena Sports and Fitness, AHEAD Coalition, Russell Chiropractic, North Montgomery Parks & Recreation, SAMS Club, Industrial Credit Union, Cigna Healthcare, American Cancer Society, American Funds, Family Crisis Center, Crawfordsville Extreme Fitness, Massage Therapy Clinic, John Hancock Services, St. Claire Medical Center (Free Cholesterol Screenings), Northridge Chiropractic

Scholarship Luncheon: A New Tradition

Jim Amidon — They say Wabash is a tradition-rich school, and it is. They also say traditions at Wabash take decades to form. Now that I’m well into my third decade at the College, I know for a fact that traditions take, on average, about three years to take hold.

The latest, greatest tradition is the Celebrating Scholarships Luncheon, which was held for the third year in a row. As President Andy Ford aptly pointed out, the luncheon has come to signify spring on campus, even though snow showers fell from the sky at this year’s event, which was attended by over 300 students, donors, parents, faculty, and staff.

Ever since Marilyn Smith of the Advancement Office hosted the first Celebrating Scholarships Luncheon, those of us on the north side of campus have been saying out loud, "Why haven’t we been doing this for years?"

It seems like such a natural, common sense thing to do — matching scholarship recipients with the alumni, friends, and foundations who gave the gifts to establish the scholarships. There’s nothing more exciting for those of us in Advancement than to see people like David and Betty Givens ’56 meeting the young men who benefit from their generosity. That connection provides a living philanthropic link between our College’s past and its future.

Vic DeRose ’74 has come to all three luncheons, I think, and he loves nothing more than meeting the guys who have earned his family scholarship. And the students suddenly have learned to network, too; Vic is a very connected person in the business world, whose contacts can benefit DeRose Scholars long beyond their time at Wabash.

It was a bit of a family reunion for Fran H’85, Tom ’56, and John ’59 Hollett, who enjoyed their time with men who have received scholarships in the Hollett name.

And true to the three-year tradition, the link between past and future was made when the guest speakers at the event were a past scholarship recipient, Nelson Alexander ’90, and a current scholarship winner, David Fitzgerald ’06, who spoke eloquently about the College’s philanthropic tradition.

Alexander, who received the Charles Maurice Hegarty Scholarship, was recently listed as one of the "40 Under 40" in Indianapolis and is the managing partner of his law firm. Instead of focusing on the success he has gained at such a young age, he challenged students to pursue their real dreams at Wabash, something scholarships allow them to do. Fitzgerald, a recipient of the John B. Goodrich Grant-in-Aid, issued a gentle reminder: "Remember the help you received and return that favor to future Wallies throughout the years."

Indeed, the Celebrating Scholarships Luncheon has evolved ever-so-quickly into an important, calendar-marking Wabash tradition.